(THE BUSINESS TIMES) - A funny thing happened on our visit to Kimme, the new eatery opened by the chef of the recently minted Michelin-starred Meta: nothing.
There is no fuss. Nobody makes a song and dance about why the menu is divided into big and small plates. No extended sharing about the Korean heritage of the two chefs in the kitchen and how it has influenced the menu of otherwise European technique-based cooking.
You have a fuss-free eatery in Amoy Street, tastefully decorated with clever curved walls that give a wide tunnel effect. An open kitchen takes up half of the ground floor. If you want to watch chefs Sun Kim and Louis Han in action, conversing quietly in their mother tongue, you have to sit at the large communal table that faces them. If you are anti-social, there are another two floors to choose from.
The small plates are smaller than the big plates, but there is hardly any distinction in price. The shima aji tartare ($36) is priced more for the little dollop of caviar than the amount of finely diced raw fish tossed in light sesame oil, raw onion, zest and seaweed powder. It is scattered with finely grated egg and is a pleasant, light starter.
Two poached prawns ($18), barely cooked and very fresh, are bouncy and sweet, with just the right punchiness from crunchy julienned endive, pomelo pearls and herbs and drizzled with coriander oil. For $9 a prawn, you cannot expect anything less than pristine shrimp.
Two Irish oysters ($5 each) are stunted little creatures, snuggled in their nugget-sized shells in a bath of lemon, ginger and a touch of oil, and decorated with trout roe.
We like the chefs' no-nonsense approach - there is no need for bells and whistles, everything tastes as it should and any embellishments are by-the-way natural rather than look-at-me clever. Nothing feels out of place and the Korean/Asian inflections are understated.
The dish that intrigues us for its ingenuity is the spanner crab seaweed linguine ($26), which is supposed to be modelled after the Korean glass noodle japchae, but it is hard to see the connection. It seems totally original with an inspiring use of wakame seaweed.
It is not a looker though, with its messy clump of very fine, thin linguine - tender but not al dente - tossed in slippery soft seaweed until it absorbs all its iodine goodness and the stock its cooked in.
Imagine the comforting seaweed soup you always hear about in Korean dramas, brought to life in this comforting pasta riff. Lee Min Ho would approve.
A simple twist to the traditional bossam ($35) and you get something totally modern, with distinctive flavours that do not clash. Slices of slow-cooked pork belly are fork-tender but still resilient, that you layer with crisp raw endive and housemade white kimchi and dip in the soya bean chilli paste ssamjang.
Meanwhile, the sous-vide and seared wagyu rump ($33) is a little chewy, but the smoky charred kale with sauteed diced mushroom doenjang is a good meatless entree in its own right.
Usually by this time, when we have gone through much of the menu without much of a hitch and only an over-cologned server to distract us, we are pretty happy. Especially since we are the only ones at the communal table.
But dessert, which we have no expectations about, turns out to be a memorable affair, especially for its banana cream puffs.
They are exorbitant at $10 for two bite-sized puffs that are shaped like little bolo buns with a crisp crinkly top, filled with silken banana cream. The joy is over in one bite which involves a shattering of pastry that melts in the mouth followed by a luscious flow of cream.
The pear and cranberry tart ($19)is simple but intense - tender stewed fruit on a thin buttery crust, and walnut ice cream which has that natural sappy aftertaste of walnuts which means real nuts were used.
Kimme is satisfying but pricey for what you get. It is not a star turn, but more of a reliable option between casual and fine-dining. Make the prices a little more friendly and Kimme will be a Gimme.
Where: 47 Amoy Street, tel: 6514-1588; open: noon to 2.30pm and 5.30 to 11pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays